Moscow ready to repair ties with US despite ‘regrettable’ security strategy – Ambassador to US

Moscow is ready to “build bridges” with Washington despite the new US national security strategy, which designates Russia as a threat to US security, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said.

“We have carefully studied this strategy… we will probably continue scrutinizing all the words and expressions mentioned there, our magnifying lens in hand. I can only say this: the first impression of it is that this strategy is highly regrettable. Regrettable in the context of the Russia-US relations. We see many flawed points in it, but we are ready to work and build ties with the United States, regardless of this, I should say, unfriendly strategy, which the new of national security strategy really is,” he said in an interview with RTVi on Friday.

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US tanks arrive at an air base in Romania

The 68-page document, unveiled by US President Donald Trump earlier this month, lays out the four “pillars” of US national security as protecting the homeland, promoting US prosperity, preserving “peace through strength,” and advancing US influence. Among the main challengers to America’s global power, the strategy names “revisionist powers, such as China and Russia,” that seek to “shape a world antithetical to US values and interest.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Washington’s new national security strategy is “aggressive.” Both the US and NATO have been “accelerating build-up of infrastructure in Europe,” he added. Referring to the “defense strategy recently put out” by Washington, Putin said it was “definitely offensive… speaking in diplomatic language.”

And yet, there are some positive signs too. “[The strategy] has some positive moments, particularly those regarding cooperation with Russia in fields corresponding to the US interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in December. “Moscow is also seeking cooperation with the United States in areas which are beneficial for us, and depending on how far our US counterparts are ready to go,” he added.

According to Russia’s ambassador to the US, Washington is willing to improve relations with Moscow.

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© Alexander Demianchuk

“Based on the content of the conversations between the Russian president and his US counterpart, I’ve made a conclusion for myself that Donald Trump has not given up the idea to repair [ties] or come to an understanding with Russia,” Antonov, who previously served as deputy defense and foreign minister, said.

“No one questions the US president’s decision to get along with Russia,” Antonov noted. “On the other hand, unfortunately, there are specific moves by the current [US] administration that complicate US-Russia relations.”

US seizure of Russian diplomatic property ‘inadmissible’

A diplomatic row between Russia and the US escalated in late August when the US State Department ordered the closure of Russia’s Consulate-General in San Francisco, a trade mission in Washington, and a consular annex in New York City. The move came in response to Moscow ordering the US to reduce its diplomatic personnel in Russia. The FBI later conducted searches at Russian diplomatic compounds in the US. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the move “meaningless clownery.”

Russia vehemently rejects the Trump administration’s stance on the issue of Russian diplomatic property in the United States, Antonov said.

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The entrance to the building of the Consulate General of Russia is shown in San Francisco © Stephen Lam

“We believe that the US administration’s measures regarding the Russian diplomatic property are inadmissible. We reject this approach to the Russian property. I can say for sure that we have fought and will continue fighting for the return of those buildings, which at present remain illegally seized by the US authorities, and, among other things, we will insist on the resumption of work of the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco.”

The ambassador said he had requested to visit the consulate premises “to see what is going on there.”Regretfully, the US State Department rejected the request. I was not even allowed to enter the building.”

When asked whether Russia planned to bring the issue to a US court, Antonov replied: “We have instructions from President Putin on this issue. Relevant work is under way. This work is very delicate and requires silence and no media interference.”
Asked to comment on the soured relations with members of Congress, Antonov replied that US lawmakers refuse to hold any meetings with their Russian colleagues. The Russian ambassador has only held one such meeting, with senior US Senator from Wisconsin Ron Johnson.

“But, again, that’s not a question I can really answer. I’ve sent requests for a meeting to numerous senators, unfortunately, only one such meeting was held so far… We have discussed the need, the possibility, the prospect of restoring inter-parliamentary ties,” Antonov said. “But I would like to stress that we will not go to anybody with an outstretched hand, begging [for a meeting].”

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